A party may file a Protection from Abuse petition in the event of abuse, meaning physical violence or the threat thereof as well as stalking or any other course of conduct which would place a person in fear of bodily injury. A Protection from Abuse (PFA) petition requires the petitioner to identify the defendant, state the incidents constituting the “abuse” as well as any prior history of similar incidents, provide notice of any weapons involved, and set out the relief requested. Depending on the nature and severity of the allegations, a temporary PFA order may be put in place almost immediately to prohibit contact between the parties until a full hearing can be held. Often a hearing will be held in approx. 7-10 days if not sooner. The petitioner must ensure the Defendant is served with the Petition, Notice of Hearing and temporary order, if applicable, prior to the hearing. The local sheriff can be contacted to effectuate the service.
At the hearing, the party pursuing a PFA order must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that some “abuse”, as defined above, occurred. A preponderance of the evidence means more likely than not. Remedies for a successful PFA petition can include having the Defendant removed from a residence that was previously shared, restrictions on contact for up to 3 years, either directly or indirectly, relinquishment of firearms or other weapons, reimbursement for related expenses or out of pocket costs suffered, temporary support, and in some cases, a custody schedule. It is possible to list multiple persons in need of protection under a single PFA petition including children, if applicable. Violations of PFA result in criminal charges depending on the nature of the violation.